Victory over one’s enemy is usually more psychological than physical.
Why the Nazis gave up when they did during World War II is largely conjecture left for historians. However, that particular moment of their capitulation—as opposed to before or after it—likely occurred not as a result of any specific act by the Allies, but rather due the acceptance by their leadership that they could no longer win and achieve their aims.
The more than 100-year conflict with the Palestinians over the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty in their ancestral and indigenous homeland is a far more complex battle, with no obvious front. And while violence has always played a large part in it, it is not always palpable.
Nevertheless, winning the conflict depends on the same criterion as that which led to the defeat of the Nazis: one side understanding that it can no longer win and achieve its aims. For the Palestinians, this moment of awareness has clearly not arrived yet, and each decision the State of Israel takes should be to push the Palestinians towards such realization.
Unfortunately, many of the recent—and not so recent—decisions that Israeli officials have made will not persuade the Palestinians that they have lost, or that they’re even in the process of losing. Sadly, the opposite is the case.
Mere days after Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at his home in Rosh Ha’ayin and offered him various compromises, Abbas delivered a three-hour lecture on the “history of the Palestinian cause,” in which he claimed that the Jews have no history in Israel and are part of a colonial theft of the land.
According to Palestinian Media Watch, Abbas “presented those present with a concise historical survey that dealt intensively with the injustice caused to the Palestinians when the world powers—and foremost among them the U.S. and Britain—agreed to the theft of the homeland and land and to granting them as a gift to the Zionist movement, which is an inseparable part of the international colonialist movement.”
As this illustrates, Israel’s concessions move the Palestinians further and further away from defeat and acceptance of the permanence and right of the Jewish people to sovereignty, while emboldening their violent rejectionism.
Another example of giving a tailwind to those who believe in an ultimate Palestinian victory is the story of Khader Adnan, a member of the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Arrested and placed in Israeli administrative detention, he decided to go on a hunger strike until he was released.
A battle of wills ensued between Israeli authorities and Palestinian prisoners who used sympathy as a weapon. Rather than serving as a lesson for Israel about how to win such a war of wills, Israel wilted and Adnan was able to secure his release.
Another to win his own release is Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash, who ended a 140-day hunger strike after Israel agreed that he would be let go in February.
This tactic not only emboldens other Palestinian prisoners; it poses the risk of rendering Israel’s administrative detention rules, which are necessary for the Jewish state’s security, void and obsolete.
Coupled with Israel’s concerns about the potential for bad publicity if one of the prisoners should die while in detention is the supposed threat of violence on the part of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terrorist groups should one of their members die. As if this weren’t bad enough, some Israeli officials have reportedly stated that it was necessary to give in to the prisoners for “security reasons.”
This might make some sense for the short term, but clearly it’s not going to dissuade or deter violent Palestinian rejectionist and terrorist groups. Each time that Israel climbs down from its tree, they believe that they’re facing a paper tiger and have renewed hope for ultimate victory.
This sadly brings to mind what Winston Churchill famously and presciently said to Neville Chamberlain after the latter thought that he had made a deal to stave off war with Hitler and the Nazis in 1938: “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war.”
Israel has many choices and options in its relations with the Palestinians. The history of these relations over the last three decades has amply demonstrated that seeking agreements, offering compromises or trying to stave off conflict merely feeds the beast of violent Palestinian rejectionism.
It is time for a different strategy—one that involves pushing back against Palestinian demands and threats. Every opportunity should be utilized to express to the Palestinians that their rejectionism will be defeated, and that Israel will ultimately emerge victorious.
As things stand at the moment, however, the Palestinians harbor hopes of victory. These must be crushed.
Doing this doesn’t necessarily require a single major maneuver or activity, but it does mean looking at each and every interaction to ascertain whether it further fuels Palestinian hopes of victory and an end to Jewish sovereignty, or Israeli victory and an end to the conflict.
Alex Nachumson is an IDF Military Commander (Res) and CEO of Mivtachi Israel, an organization of former senior IDF Officers, and an adviser to the Israel Victory Project.